Monday, August 23, 2004

Would you pay for an Internet Browser?

You know, despite the infamous "Browser Wars" between Netscape and Internet Explorer, the Browser landscape is quite abundant. That is somewhat of a suprise to me as I expected it to become a two pony race and stay that way. Unfortunately I do not have a Mac that can run Apple's Safari some I'm a not a good source of information on that product. I'm pleased though to see this schism developing though. The "Free" Browsers versus the "Pay" Browsers. I've heard many a computer user exclaim "I would never pay for a browser" but I'm beginning to wonder if that is truly the case. I tend to think that people would pay for a Browser as long as it handled the basics well and added valuable features that are non-existant or poorly done in the free offerings.
For instance I recently became a little annoyed with the shortcomings of the nice Firefox Browser. I found it to be fast but a little rough around the edges. I'm now trying Opera which is available on many platforms. Opera and Omniweb are two commerical Browsers. Opera runs for free with banner ads. Omniweb is available for a limited trial.
Just what can these Browsers do that would make the wallets open and the cash register sing? Well my initial thoughts on Opera lead me to believe that this version 7.5 isn't worth the $29.95 asking price but by version 8 it may just reach that desirable goal. I've grown particularly fond of the stability of Opera. Compared to Firefox it just seems more fluid when switching tabs while another tab is loading as if each tab was threaded better. The Panel contains icons for Mail, Notes, Transfers, History, Links and others down the left side. These auto update depending on the site you have front facing. The "Links" icon is nice as it will give you a simple list of all the links on a given page. The Notes can be handy as well. You can highlight text on any webpage and right click(PC) and save automatically to a note or take text from any note and insert into the page. Not too groundbreaking but it could come in handy at times. The integrated Mail client doesn't suck and even offers easy RSS setup/subscription. I prefer its search facility from the Panel. In stead of just searching Google you are presented with a search form and then a collection of bars that will search various sites. Want to search Google and then Amazon and then 6 other sites? Just click the appropriate site icon bar and your search commences.
I haven't used Omniweb but I believe it could become my standard Browser on my next Mac purchase if they continue to add features. Omniweb's Workspaces feature looks very nice as well as Site Preferences and Saved Browser Sessions. Not too shabby. Although it's not to everyones liking but it would be interesting to see Omniweb perhaps offer an advanced UI option where it would seamlessles integrate with Addressbook, Mail and perhaps even iPhoto for saving web photos. I think the Browser is simply moving on to another phase and I look forward to seeing how the commerical Browsers compete against the free Browsers.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Apple's prowess in Sotfware Design

I've recently read some reviews on Motion Apple's new motion graphics application for video. Normally a program written from the ground up can tend to be a little sparse in UI. We all know Apple's OSX is progressing nicely but I'm particularly impressed with what they've done with some of their recent new apps or upgrades.

DVD Studio Pro- Apple really has done a great UI job with this app. It's not only gorgeous but highly functional. They only complaints I've read are about sluggishness on some systems. Everyone from Pros to Novice are able to get up to speed with this application quickly. Great job.

Apple Remote Desktop 2.0- Nice clean use of brushed metal UI and Aqua. They've wrapped up a nice group of features and this app shows a lot of promise. Some initial bugs being reported but I'm sure they'll be fixed soon.

Motion- This apps UI is impressive. I read a very comprehensive review from Peter Wiggins from Creative Cow and I learned a lot. Motion is not a goes pretty deep once you start using the layering and timeline functions. Keyframing is always available when you need it. Most people seem to say that whatever they need just happens to be right there meaning the developers brainstormed a lot about what the users next step would be. Kudos Apple. By version 3 I predict Motion overtakes After Effects. Sorry Adobe but if you don't do a total overhaul of AE you won't stand a chance.

Logic 7- This is not a shipping product yet and all I have are 7 pics of the Beta to go off of but it seems like Logic 7 will be the next app to see a much improved UI. Apple Loops will be integrated very nicely and I'm sure there will be plenty of other touches that musicians love. I cannot wait for this product.

Apple is definitely on a roll. They have really done a good job on their Pro apps. Now I see the apps coming closer and integrating in very cool ways. This is one of the reasons why I so desperately want an Apple Office. I'm salivating about what Apple would bring to the table in this genre. Open Office and the like are nice MS Office clones but we don't want that do we? Don't we want to see Apple's take on the integrated suite? Imagine the graphics powers they could extend to creating fancy spreadsheets.

I'd love to see more software. I don’t' always agree with the people that hate seeing Apple create software. Every market that Apple devotes resources to creates a Halo Effect that increases opportunities for other developers. Final Cut Pro killed Adobe Premiere on the platform but Premiere never created a "Cottage Industry" devoted to it. Final Cut Pro has.

I'd love to see Apple apply their design talents on a nice simple 3D program aimed at video Pros. Like the Soundtrack of 3D or something. If they could utilize Motion's procedural behaviors within a 3D app for animation they'd be looking at a hit.

I love Apple software. I want more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Apple buy Tivo before it is too late!

Apple should buy Tivo…NOW!

Tivo now has the “beleaguered” title and the death knells are coming fast and furious. I have always admired Tivo rabid fans. They remind me much of my fellow Mac users. I think this is one of the reasons why I believe Apple should acquire Tivo. Sounds crazy but in reality it is not. Apple is quickly becoming a player in Audio and Video Production. They have the #1 legal download service and portable player. Purchasing Tivo allows them to fast track into the hot DVR (Digital Video Recorder) market. Here’s how.


Tivo is a great system with the best User Interface hands down. They have a great name and 1.6 million rabid users. What’s the catch? They are small and the large cable operators are encroaching fast into their area. Tivo’s have weaknesses as well. They must sell their hardware at a loss to entice users. This means all of their profit comes from either selling a lifetime service to their guide data or paying a monthly fee of $12.95. This means that if you stop paying the monthly fee you have a useless paperweight. The lifetime service is the better deal but now that $299 Tivo is now $549

Apple to the rescue

How can Apple parlay an acquisition of Tivo into something profitable when Tivo is having problems profiting? By taking Tivo and building upon it. If Tivo wasn’t totally useless without the monthly or lifetime fees it wouldn’t have to sell at a loss to. This is the first thing Apple would fix. After the acquisition Apple would keep things similar for a year or so while they revamped the Tivo system. The UI would remain relatively the same but instead of using Linux to run the Tivo Apple would replace it with a new Quicktime capable of running Set Top Box (STB). This opens up a whole new world for Tivo. Now “any” file that plays in Quicktime now plays on the Tivo. Just that easy the Tivo now supports iLife. Songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store now play along with your Garageband tunes. iPhoto files are supported and of course even your own iMovie creations. PC files would work of course because of Quicktime. So now we have rid the Tivo of its most glaring weakness, obsolescence. But how would Apple handle the subscriptions? . Mac

. Mac is Apple’s answer to dealing with the guide data. Currently Apple charges Mac customers $99 a year to subscribe. This gets them a email address, web space and other sync features. Apple would create .Mac for Tivo. This would give them the guide data and even some website space and if they are Mac users they would get the Mac specific features available to that platform. This would be $120 year or the Lifetime amount of $250 would still apply with no web space.


Ok so now we know what Apple can do how will they make money? Well Apple will give Tivo the financial backing they need to withstand and persevere against the large cable operators rolling out substandard DVR for cheap. Apple would gain 1.6 million new .Mac users bringing the total to 2 million users. Apple now has inroads into broadcast recording. This is huge because now that the FCC has mandated that Cable Cards must be offered from the large cable operators the door has been opened for Tivo to get on more TV sets. Cable Cards are being built into TVs and STB so that an encrypted HDTV signal can be decoded “without” the need for the cable operators own STB. What do you lose by not going with the operators STB? Not much really: you lose some of the video on demand features but I think many of us know that Apple will have a say in that someday as well as Netflix and Blockbuster. Cable Cards will allow the next Tivo to access all your favorite paid channels and record them in glorious HDTV. No more crazy hookups either.

This deal would simply make too much sense. Apple has the infrastructure setup to parlay this into something big. iPods and Tivo capable multimedia STB from Apple could be a huge hit.